Imperialism. Blake II

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Thu Jul 27 04:24:46 MDT 1995


  From Blake's manuscript:

"To return to more serious theoretical discussion, and to cut through the
underbrush of literature, one epoch making book followed that of Lenin.
This was the Polish economist Henryk Grossman whose encylcopaedic treatise
'The Laws of Accumulation and Tendencies to Catastrophe in the Capitalist
System' was published (in German) in 1929.  It is generally admitted to to
be the most comprehensive study of the subject, even by those dissent from
some of its conclusions or even impeach its basic theory.  It is also
generally agreed that little that is new has been added since its
publication.

"Grossman, a Marxist, seeks the explanation of imperialism not in the
strugle for markets, which are to compensate for underconsumption at home,
nor in the need to obtain higher yields abroad, nor even in necessary
expansion of investment into less developed lands.  For him Imperialsm may
extend from one developed land to another (as we now witness in struggle
for  the control of sources of German profitability), it may occur when
consumer demand is thriving at home, and it need not necessarily receive a
higher yield abroad than at home.  For him these ideas are mere
vulgarizations, resorted to because the persons advancing these
explanations observe only the external phenomena of capitalism. They do not
ask what drives on capitalist production to a certain end, even after one
grants that all is well in those very aspect in which other commentators
seek the causes of imperialism.  Isolating capitalism as a pure system, and
studying its inherent tendencies to collapse, he then turns to its need to
utilize countertendencies to avert the doom of the system.  Out of these
countertendencies, which, however important, are secondary since they are a
barrage erected against a dominant tendency which heads towards collapse
can be determined the relevant imperialist tendencies.

"His basis assumption is that capitalists, at some point during every
upswing in production, find that the amount of profit they extract out of
the the labour-power they purchase (in Marxian language this is termed
surplus value), tends to shrink, and thus they drain that reservoir from
the accumulation of capital and the consumption of capitalists themselves
is derived.  At a given point there would be no further incentive for them
to produce, and were the tendency allowed to continue, they would face a
genuine decrement, an annihilation of surplus value and even a reduction of
capital itself.

"But as this tendency has existed in capitalism for a very long time,
although it is intensfied with every new cycle, the query remains: why has
a system whose inner mechanism leads it to doom, managed for the last
seventy years , say, so spectacularly to increase its production and
profits.  Its difficulties also grow apace.  There are deeper crises, more
frequent wars, a more chaotic world situation in superficial manifestations
such as tariffs and currencies, but of the stupendous increase in the mass
of profits, say, in the United States since 1880, there can be no question.

"Here Grossmann lists numerous countertendencies.  With each cycle the
difficulty in overcoming the basic tendency grows greater. the
countertendencies increase in violence so as to redress the balance. The
internal factors we need not enunmerate at this point.  The external ones
are the export of capital to obtain profits sadly needed to compensate the
pressure of lower profitability at home.  The capitalists struggle for
cheap and assured raw materials to assist profitability.  They use foreign
trade, first on an unequal basis so as to add this extra profit to profit
at home.  But even foreign trade, on an equal basis helps to diversify the
produciton of commodities considered as utilities at home, reduces
production and circulation costs by reason of extended markets. these, all
servants of more profitability, explain Imperialism.  it is not want of
customers that is central or significant.  Nor does Grossmann hold that
industrialization of backward countries adds to the difficulties of sales.
Onthe contrary it has been a great factor in aiding the capacity to
consume.  Nor can imperialism be be explained merely by the notion that we
live in age of monopoly. True, it is monopolies that carry out this policy
most brutally, but the are themselves the form required to assure
extra-profitability.  True, the export of capital is characteristic of
present imperialism as that of goods was in the past, but one must go
beyond this brilliant discovery and isolate the economic reason for this
difference?  It is interesting to note first that this book has never
appeared in English or French (it has been an inspiration to Japanese
anti-imperialists) and secondly that it has had a paucity of commentators,
either favorable or critical. Thus, of the theories congruent with those of
Lenin, Grossmann's contribution remains outstanding, if largely neglected."




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